Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Watching The Fur Fly

I remember when I had first discovered this marvelous thing called the "Internet".  I was just sort of stumbling around, and I had discovered Google.  I no longer remember what it was for, but I had done a search, and besides web pages, Google was bringing up messages from Usenet groups that matched my criteria, some going back several years.  My interest in my search stopped as I viewed what I took to be a Big Ass Warning -- everything from Usenet to groups to whatever were always out there, they never went away.  From that point on, I became very careful what I wrote.  Granted, it wasn't tough -- I write pretty much the way I talk, and I try to be conscious of what I say.  But if that little voice in the back of my mind started saying, "Peter?  It might not be a good idea for you to post this," I didn't do it.  Even if the community was dedicated to either bashing a celebrity or just talking about how hot someone was, I kept such opinions to myself.  Because I didn't know if it would ever bite me in the ass.

I bring this up because I'm 46, and hadn't started dealing with the Internet until sometime around 1998.  And even back in those halcyon days, when things were far less risky and there was a higher likelihood of embarrassing things getting lost, I figured out a basic truth that people today, who grew up with the Internet and really should understand it better, have not.  Especially when you are not some anonymous person sitting at home, but an actual public figure.

This is Scott Chamberlain.  He's a furry.  If you don't know what a furry is...well, even the furry fandom is pretty divided on that.  When furries first rose to prominence, it was through a combination of the black and white boom in comics and sci-fi cons.  No, that's not a joke -- lots of people blame the anime subculture for the emergence of furries, but it actually started in sci-fi as cons saw the number of participants and started creating furry tracks at the shows.  From there, it was a hop, skip, and a jump to prominence.  Anime had a hand in it thanks to things like catgirls and the like, but in America, sci-fi was the garden from which furry bloomed.

When it first formed, furry was simply people who liked anthropomorphic animals or stories with a more animal slant.  Bugs Bunny, Usagi Yojimbo, Mickey Mouse, things like that.  No big D.  But a shift began to appear.  The black and white boom brought comics like Omaha The Cat Dancer.  On the one hand, the stories were mature and complex.  On the other hand, you had boobies.  You had sexual situations.  And the furry culture started latching on to this.  Seeing their animal identification as an excuse to act more "primal," sexuality became fatefully intertwined with the furry subculture.  There are furry works out there that are not just acceptable, but well done.  For example, the comic strip Faux Paws was a riot.  But such things are the minority, and there are plenty of prominent furs that will actually become offended if you willfully disregard what they call "the sexual aspect of furry."

One of the stranger things about the furry fandom is how is serves as an incubator for what eventually becomes online trends and identities (ironic, given that furry in general is usually a couple of years behind the pop culture curve).  It is from furries that concepts like otherkin and baby fetishes spread.  In the case of otherkin, it's just the furry identity taken to its logical conclusion, that the person isn't a person but an animal spirit born into a human body (a lot of them also really do not understand the concept of totem animals, either).  But the baby fetish thing?  That started off as a dodge because underage depictions of humans are illegal.  But these are fantasy characters that don't exist.  It provided an outlet for very dark, very bad things to come out.  Not helping was that, by embracing the whole "animalistic" aspect that was supposed to be the furry personality, sexual taboos ceased to exist.  People would make stories about rape, incest, whatever, and it was all walled off by being absolutely not real because it was furry.

Now, I want to be clear here.  Not all furries are like this.  Not only does the culture's fundamental identity change every decade or so as new people come in and old people move on, but I've known a few in my day.  Hell, one of the biggest points of contention was how furries didn't like my Stress Puppy strip, which I turned into a running gag in the series (although, by the end of the series run, a lot of the furries who had decried it were on board with it and enjoying it, so I'm not sure I would have kept the joke up much longer).  I don't like to assume someone is to be avoided just because he's a furry.  What matters is how they express that hobby, what they approve of and disapprove of.

Which brings us back to Scott Chamberlain.

Chamberlain was a Democratic member of the New Milford, Connecticut council.  Chamberlain was a furry and he didn't hide it.  He talked openly about it and his "fursona" (an identity based on a furry version of himself, a "furry persona") named Grey Muzzle (which also indicates the guy has been around, as "grey muzzles" and "greys" are furry talk for people middle aged or older in the fandom).  When he was running for council initially, he sat down with Peter Mullen, the town's Democratic chair, and told him about his furry activities and that he wrote "science fiction adult literature."  Mullen felt there was nothing amiss and gave Chamberlain his blessing.  Chamberlain was doing well enough that he was up for re-election and things were going swimmingly.

But one thing about fandoms is drama, and Chamberlain got a heaping dose of it.  Local resident Rick Agee started searching profiles on a web site called So Furry.  For those that don't know, this is a furry dating site.  As it is reflective of the furry subculture, it has all sorts of things to help furries know more about prospective mates.  So Furry profiles feature "loves," "likes," "tolerates," and "hates," so people can be more explicit about where they draw the line.  They did a search and found Chamberlain's profile.

And under "tolerates," Chamberlain had listed "rape."

He also participated in writing a "soap opera" on the site which featured lots and lots of sex.

And he posted this pic:

The post has since been deleted.  But Agee was part of a group of protesters who gathered outside the D headquarters in town that had just opened to kick off the campaign season, one holding a sign that read, "No perverts running our town!"  Mayor David Gronbach called for Chamberlain to resign, saying elected officials should be held to a "higher standard."  The party headquarters began removing signs and bumper stickers for Chamberlain, and Chamberlain resigned from the council and bailed on his re-election campaign.

Chamberlain complained about the whole thing, saying someone was looking for information on him just to set him up.  Dude, it's a PUBLIC PROFILE AND PAGE.  You weren't set up by anybody but yourself.  "I'm just saddened by this whole thing.  I've always tried to be positive in my public life and work hard and donate my time for the people of New Milford."  And apparently, you thought everybody was so cool with you, that this public information you revealed would never be sought.

So once more, for the people at home:

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